It’s Mothering Sunday here in France and while I was out shopping yesterday I noted the florists and chocolate shops were doing a roaring trade. I’ve been thinking about my late mother this week, not because of Mothering Sunday, but because the Chelsea Flower Show which she adored has just ended. She was a keen gardener and spent hours tending her garden ensuring that it was a delight to the senses all year long.
I can’t remember when I first bought her a subscription to The Royal Horticultural Society but it was so long ago that membership then entitled you to attend the Chelsea Flower Show free of charge. Ah, those were the days! My mother would come and stay with us in London for a few days with her best friend and the pair of them would lunch out at a couple of top restaurants, enjoy afternoon tea at one of the hotels, indulge in a spot of shopping and wear themselves ragged walking around the flower show. Once my father had retired, she dragged him around the show for a few years but, as my mother’s dementia took hold, she lost all interest in gardening and with a heavy heart I finally cancelled her subscription.
After a few years of grace, I had to pay for her flower show tickets but never begrudged the cost as the gift afforded her such pleasure. She used to read the RHS magazine from cover to cover and, whenever she could, also visited their gardens at Wisley (pictured above). My mother loved her garden but it wasn’t just about the flowers, she delighted in the wildlife that would venture into the garden from the golf course which it backs onto. All year round she’d leave treats for the birds, big and small, many of whom enjoyed a shower in the bird bath and fountain.
My father liked the garden to look good but had little free time to assist though he took charge of the lawn which he liked to be as green and smooth as a billiard table but the borders and soft planting were Mum’s territory. As they got older, Dad employed an odd job man to look after sweeping up the leaves, cleaning the paving, trimming the hedges and general weeding. He had a lawn expert who would tend to any mossy or bald patches, plus a gardener who would increasingly give Mum a helping hand. These gentlemen continued to keep the garden in good order when was Mum was no longer able to tend it.
One of the first things my father did after my mother’s death was to try to restore her garden to its former glory. In addition, he bought a stone statue in her honour. He placed it where he could see it every day and I assume provided him with some sort of comfort. My mother’s ashes and now his, sit in its base which is back in the garden though not yet in its rightful spot.
My sister and brother-in-law have remodelled the family house and are slowly turning their attention to the garden. I saw some pictures of it yesterday and couldn’t help but feel that my parents would be gazing down on it with exasperation, it’s a shadow of its former self. Though not from want of trying, my sister has been unable to find a landscaper who wants to revitalise it. She suspects that although it’s a major project, because the terraces are already set in stone and it’s just the planting which needs sorting out, it perhaps isn’t quite as remunerative for them as a total overhaul. However, I’m sure she’ll get there in the end and provide a fitting setting for my parents’ final resting place.